Basketball star Brittney Griner returned to a Russian court this week as her trial continues for possession of cannabis when she entered the country earlier this year. Griner, WNBA champion and Olympic gold medalist, was arrested at Moscow airport in February after customs officers found vape cartridges in her luggage containing less than a gram of oil in total of cannabis.
Wearing handcuffs, Griner was escorted to the courtroom in Khimki, a Moscow suburb, for the seventh trial hearing and placed in a cage reserved for the defendants. During her confinement, she held up personal photos in full view of those present in the courtroom.
Griner pleaded guilty and admitted bringing the THC cartridges with her to Russia, although she said she wasn’t sure exactly how they ended up in her luggage. She also told the court that she did not intend to violate Russian law.
Defense challenges evidence against Griner
During Tuesday’s hearing, Griner’s attorneys challenged the analysis of the cannabis canisters and questioned prosecution witness Alexander Korablyov, who examined the canisters taken from Griner’s luggage. The defense also presented an expert witness who testified that the analysis of the cartridges was not carried out in accordance with Russian law.
“The examination does not comply with the law in terms of completeness of study and does not meet the standards of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” forensic chemist Dmitry Gladyshev said during the hearing, which lasted around two hours, according to a CNN report.
After the hearing, Mr. Blagovolina declared that the analysis was not in conformity because it did not establish the percentage of THC of the cannabis oil contained in the cartridges. Another lawyer representing the basketball star, Aleksandr Boikov, said “it would be wrong to establish the exact amount” of cannabis the cartridges contained based on Korablyov’s analysis.
Griner’s defense team also presented evidence in court showing that it had obtained a doctor’s recommendation to use medical cannabis legally in Arizona.
“There are a lot of factors that will be taken into account by the court,” Blagovolina told reporters after Tuesday’s hearing, adding that Griner “admitted that she had contributed something, but we need to know what she brought. »
Griner’s trial continues today as attorneys are expected to make their closing statements. Blagovolina said Griner is focused but nervous as the verdict approaches.
“She knows the end is near, and of course she has heard the news, so she hopes that one day she can come home, and we hope so too,” Ms Blagovolina added.
Elizabeth Rood, charge d’affaires of the US Embassy in Moscow, attended Tuesday’s hearing. After the hearing, she said the United States would “continue to support Miss Griner through every step of this process and for as long as it takes to bring her safely back to the United States.”
US offers prisoner exchange
Despite her guilty plea, Ms. Griner is considered “wrongfully detained” by the US State Department. A conviction in the case could allow Griner to be freed in a potential prisoner exchange between Russia and the United States.
Last week, President Joseph Biden’s administration revealed that the US government had offered to trade Griner and his compatriot Paul Whelan, a former US Marine detained in Russia for espionage, for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that Russia responded in “bad faith” to the US government’s offer. Without elaborating, she said that US officials do not consider Russia’s counter-offer serious. Asked about the Biden administration’s latest comments about the Russian counter-offer, Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to provide details.